Mantra Ettalong Beach, review: When big is hard to beat

Read our writer's views on this property below

Melissa Singer enjoys a spacious apartment, enormous pool and gorgeous water views on the central coast.

FRUGALITY and romantic weekends away are uncomfortable bedfellows. I learnt this the hard way when, trying to save money by not eating out, my husband tried to cook steak in the kitchen of a serviced apartment. In short, the compact range hood was no match for a smoking porterhouse and the fire alarm fallout that followed nearly cost us more than dinner for two in the town's finest restaurant, had the firefighters not let us off with a warning.

I recall that time as I stand in the kitchen of our one-bedroom apartment at the Mantra Ettalong Beach, willing my eggs to scramble on the hotplate, which is less than burning hot. It appears my own mantra - home-cooked meals are best cooked at home - has washed away in the spring downpour that has greeted our arrival.

Still, there's much to like about the Mantra, not least of which is its enormous swimming pool. Running through the catalogue in my mind of hotel pools gone by, I cannot recall one so large, with the possible exception of a hotel in Las Vegas. It had more than 1000 rooms; the Mantra has a more modest 236 studios and suites but on a rainy day it feels as though we have the place to ourselves. On a sunny day, it would be easy to sit on the balcony for hours, looking across the Brisbane waterway to Wagstaffe and Killcare as the slow, steady stream of boats putt-putts along.

The view can also be enjoyed from the sofa, which folds out to a double bed for children; however, Mantra also has two- and three-bedroom apartments for bigger tribes.

Our king main bedroom has plenty of storage space and is in the centre of the apartment, meaning that even on the brightest of mornings, it's easy to sleep in without sunlight streaming through the curtains.

As well as the pool, deluxe apartments come equipped with a double spa. A separate powder room-cum-laundry means you can cut down on the packing or throw your towels in the dryer between stints at the pool or beach. The lemon grass-scented toiletries are better than average, too.

After a dash to nearby cafes to see if anyone has salt and pepper sachets for the aforementioned eggs, I resolve to create a serviced apartment essentials kit - salt, pepper, olive oil and a decent knife - that can live in the weekend bag (or the car) for packing at a moment's notice. These things were lacking at Mantra but, then again, they are generally lacking at all but the most thoughtful accommodations.

The Mantra offers something many apartment-hotels do not, however: space. The beds are big and firm, the bathroom spacious and the living area is definitely on the large side, with an abundance of lamps, tables and chairs - all decorated in beachside rattan style and in reasonably good shape. For guests who are motivated, there's a gym downstairs and plenty of local walks along the peninsula. Even in the rain we found an interesting walk - and we didn't even leave the hotel.

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The hallways at Mantra are lined with historic photographs of the town - images we didn't see anywhere else during our stay.

It was like having an art gallery outside our door.

The writer was a guest of Mantra Ettalong Beach and Tourism NSW.

Trip notes

Where

Mantra Ettalong Beach, The Esplanade. (02) 4344 8888, mantraettalongbeach.com.au.

Getting there

Take the F3 Woy Woy exit, follow the signs to Woy Woy, then to Ettalong Beach.

How much?

Studios from $188 a night; one-bedroom apartments with kitchen from $233; two-bedrooms from $293. Servicing costs extra.

Style statement

Beachy minimalism lets the view do the talking.

Perfect for

Couples and families who want to avoid the usual tourist traps.

Don't forget

Beach towels. Apparently, they're supplied but we couldn't find them.

A shame about

The outdated televisions; new ones are on the way.

Kudos

The oversized balconies; the deluxe and terrace-style accommodations offer the most generous outdoor areas.

Take the kids?

Yes and pack the noodles — they'll love the pool.